Retaining the basis established in the Six City Strategy is important in future innovation

A crowd of men and women walking in a corridor in a building made of bricks, bright environment.

The Six City Strategy network event 'Olkkari' in 2018. Photo: Vesa Laitinen.

The Six City Strategy has produced new operating models for the development of cities. Over the course of seven years, the strategy has also produced a network that pulls together. The aim is for the cooperation to continue in ecosystems.

Senior Specialist at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment Olli Voutilainen, who has also participated as an expert in the work of the Six City Strategy steering group, identifies many factors in the Six City Strategy (6Aika) work that have affected the cities’ future and changed the way in which they are developed.

“The Six City Strategy has been a unique entity in terms of its volume and innovation. It has created a coaching relationship that did not previously exist between the Six Cities,” he says.

According to Voutilainen, a second significant relationship has been established between city operators and the government. The Six City Strategy has provided a window through which the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, Business Finland and the Ministry of the Environment have been able to monitor the development efforts carried out in the cities.

Voutilainen particularly praises the way in which innovation development, which sounds like ‘magic words’, has been transformed into practical actions in the Six City Strategy work. For example, platform-based co-creation got off to a good start right at the beginning of the strategy period thanks to the co-creation models produced in the Open innovation platforms spearhead project.

“Under the direction of Oulu, the Six Cities identified numerous thematic innovation platforms in this spearhead project. This gave an excellent start to the work.

A man with an electronic scooter, a helmet on. A sign with the writing 'Aviapolis' in big orange letters is behind him.
The Last Mile project, photo: City of Vantaa.

The Six City Strategy consolidated a culture of experimentation in Vantaa

Economic Development Director of the City of Vantaa and member of the Six City Strategy management group Kimmo Viljamaa also remembers Open innovation platforms as a particularly effective project.

The project gave rise to a co-creation model in which the city develops services together with companies, educational institutions and service users.

“For example, the Roboboost project currently underway in several cities brings talents and operators in the field of robotics together with those in need of these services,” Viljamaa says.

According to Viljamaa, the kind of culture of experimentation and urban development that currently exists in Vantaa would not have come about without the Six City Strategy.

In Vantaa, several operators are currently working together to build an urban food production hub that will develop new types of food industry solutions with the help of various pilots and projects. The purpose is to connect development projects to various measures of the food cluster.

CircularHoodFood, which reforms food production with help of circular economy, is the first of the development projects, but new projects are already in the works.”

Viljamaa continues by saying that there are many food industry companies in Finland, but cities have not had the resources to develop this growth industry, which is also significant on a global scale. The Six City Strategy has made this possible.

The economic development director of the City of Vantaa also considers the employment-related Six City Strategy projects to be very effective. As an example, he mentions DigiPoint, which seeks out young people in the ICT industry who have been left without a job or dropped out of their studies.

“DigiPoint has succeeded in developing young people’s skills and employing them or guiding them back to their studies.”

Development efforts will continue in ecosystems

After the Six City Strategy, development work will continue with the help of ecosystem agreements signed between cities and the government. The philosophy of innovation platform activity will be retained, but new themes and cities will be added. A total of eighteen cities are involved.

“In the ecosystem agreements, city-driven innovation activity shifts towards business development,” Voutilainen clarifies.

He says that the subjects of development are picked directly from the challenges faced by the city in question. Development work must produce clear products for solving the challenge more directly.

The ecosystem agreements include a variety of development themes. However, the themes share many commonalities. They fall under three larger themes: the green transition, digitality, and health and well-being.

The green transition includes green electrification in Lappeenranta; development of the circular economy, bioeconomy and resource wisdom in Turku; and increasing industrial responsibility in Tampere, for example.

Digitality incorporates development of robotics and automation in Pori; creation of new types of learning environments and smart solutions for urban environments in Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa; and development of technology in Oulu, among other things.

The health and well-being theme covers things such as strengthening international sports business activity in Lahti and developing health and well-being services for all city residents in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area.

Cooperation has been taken into account in ecosystem agreements

The Six City Strategy gave rise to cooperation between the Six Cities, and according to Viljamaa it is also key that this cooperation is continued in the future in order to achieve the cities’ emission reduction targets, for example. Solving challenges together yields better results.

“Additionally, solutions piloted in cities are easier to offer for export,” says Viljamaa.

The cities that participated in the Six City Strategy have expressed to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment their wish to retain the close network achieved as a result of the work, along with the everyday innovation it carries out.

“The continuation of the cooperation is also important from our point of view. This has been taken into account in the ecosystem agreements,” Voutilainen states.

The objective is to form smaller groups between the cities involved in the ecosystem agreements and assign these groups to work together on a particular theme, for example.

“I also hope that the Six Cities will continue cooperating with each other in one form or another. Or the Six Cities could become the eight cities, for example,” Voutilainen adds.

This article is part of a series of articles in which we present the main results of the Six City Strategy this winter and interview experienced members of the network who have followed up the development of 6Aika cooperation closely.